The authorities must waste no time in removing a banner from a children’s playground in Newry which refers to an IRA man as “a hero”, the DUP has said.
The banner, which was noticed in the Newry Mourne and Down District Council playground on Wednesday, says: “Ballybot residents – Raymond McCreesh – our hero”.
The playground has been officially named after Mr McCreesh in repeated votes by the majority nationalist council – much to the concern of unionists and terror victims in the area.
According to an Historical Enquiries Team report, Mr McCreesh was one of three IRA men arrested with three weapons used in the Kingsmills massacre in south Armagh in 1976, which saw 10 Protestant workmen slain by the IRA.
McCreesh and two accomplices were apprehended with the weapons five months later while launching an attack on the security forces in Newry.
Newry & Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin said the authorities should “waste no time” in removing the banner.
“Make no mistake, this banner is designed and erected to attempt to force an agenda by republicans that the killing spree engaged in by the IRA over the many years of the Troubles was something to be proud of,” he said.
UUP councillor David Taylor agreed. “The banner on display at the children’s play park is sick,” he said. “It is a deliberate insult directed at McCreesh’s victims, their long-suffering families and an insult to the memory of those murdered and injured in the Kingsmills massacre.”
The banner has been erected as a crucial deadline approaches on the playground. A judicial review taken by the mother of one of the Kingsmills victims has required a resolution of the matter by April 9.
Sinn Fein said the issue of the banner has arisen “because Arlene Foster has again publicly criticised the Raymond McCreesh Park”.
Asked to clarify where she had commented, the party clarified that criticism by Mrs Foster “and the DUP” was responsible, but declined to specify where or when.
The council said a review of the land use is ongoing and it will not comment until this is completed.